Happy Happy


I just wanted to sit down and write something in the middle of the night because…I’m happy.

I’m happy because I’m warm in my bed and it’s absolutely frigid outside. I’m happy because I’m going home this weekend to visit my family and exist outside of this college town for a few days. I’m reading Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, and every page I read reminds me of who I’m going to become — spirited and wise and silly. I played so much guitar yesterday that my fingers are still sore today. I’m listening to The Doors, Peter Paul and Mary, The Allman Brothers Band, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young…and realizing how much beautiful music has made my life worth living. I spent the day with my roommate studying at a coffee shop and actually got a lot of work done. I’m happy because I’ve got two exams this week and feel enormously unprepared for both of them but…when has that ever stopped me? There’s always time.

I’ve found people I love and I spend time with them. I tell them how I feel about them. They feel the same way back.

I smell like incense almost every day because I bought champa flower oil and haven’t been able to stop sniffing myself for the past year. I worked out and ate cookies today.

I’m happy because…I’m me. And I’m a happy person. Even the word “happy” looks happy and that makes me happy, too.

About these ads

One Time I Wrote Fanfic


It was awesome. There’s something really exhilarating about writing absolute tripe on the internet…maybe that’s why I like blogging. Anyway, it’s some of the most ridiculous nonsense I’ve ever written but I thought I’d share it with you here, because…because it’s Downton Abbey fanfic and Carson is sassy in it. So you’re welcome.

 

Midnight in the Library

In which Carson keeps it tight. Meow.

“Carson.” Thomas leaned against the doorframe, his sleeves rolled to the crook of his arm, vest buttons undone. His chest rose and fell quickly over labored breath. “Carson, I need you.”

Charles Carson looked up from his desk, his glasses at the tip of his nose. He pulled them off to chew tenderly on the end of his wire frames. “Oh?”

Thomas walked forward, leaning on the desk and pushing his face toward Carson’s. A small trickle of sweat ran down his temple, his hair disheveled, chest still heaving. “You’ve got no idea.”

This had become a common occurrence lately, as Thomas became more and more stressed with his duties serving Branson, so Carson was not particularly surprised to see him in disarray, panting above him. At first, Carson had disapproved of Thomas’ growing familiarity, running into his office at all hours of the evening, constantly needing advice or support of some kind. But loneliness gets the better of even the most upstanding men, and he’d begun to find Thomas’ adoration difficult to eschew. Carson was leaving tomorrow, anyway, without a word to anyone, not even Thomas. So no, it wasn’t surprising that Thomas arrived in Carson’s office at midnight, as the last bits of his candle flickered weakly. What was surprising, however, was that a desk still separated the two men.

Thomas led him into the library, fingers lightly grazing Carson’s hip through his jacket while he spoke. “I just can’t get these books straightened.” Never mind that book-straightening had never been an actual duty around Downton. Never mind that, had it been, Carson would have been even less capable of the task than Thomas. Never mind that they could be caught at any moment, suspiciously wandering the upstairs while the family slept. Nothing mattered now. Not now that Carson was leaving Downton forever. This was their last night together, and it would be spent in their place. It would be spent in the library.

It was too much. Carson found no reason to stay at Downton now, not now that he’d sullied his position and all it stood for. He’d loved every moment of his mischief, loved every warm breath that had passed from between Thomas’ beautiful lips, loved every second they’d spent alone in this darkened room. But he could no longer look Lord Grantham in the eye at dinner with these secrets ricocheting through his head. Given his propensity for telling the truth, no matter the cost, Carson knew he wouldn’t make it much longer without outing Thomas and himself as the sinners they were. The incandescent, passionate, sinning lovers they’d become.

It had been the false premises that intrigued him, always gave him that giddy fluttering in his stomach that he’d never experienced before. The questions Thomas had needed to ask him in the wee hours of the morning, drawing him from his bed in just a nightshirt. Before, he’d walked a tightrope of perfection that had thrilled him; polishing candlesticks had made his heart race in a way no woman ever had. But Thomas was an enigma, the most beautiful enigma, and now that he’d tasted freedom with Thomas, staying at Downton felt futile.

So he stood in the library, that same candle glimmering away in all its dying glory, his arm against a bookshelf as Thomas stood between him and so many classic pieces of literature, his breath catching in his throat, passion choking him as it never had before.

“Thomas,” Carson breathed. Thomas’ eyes twinkled wildly, his lips curled into the most glorious smirk he had ever seen. He exhaled heavily, leaning closer.

The candle flickered and, in a tiny burst of light, died.

In A Language I Don’t Know


I’ve never understood why so many Americans get upset when people don’t speak English…I love when students speak Spanish around campus, or Mandarin, or one of the million Indian languages that exist. It’s comforting.

I think it serves as a good reminder that I am not the center of the Universe, that people exist in other capacities besides the ones I perceive them in. And it’s nice, sometimes, to be unaware of what’s going on. To relinquish control a little.

When I was in India, I only understood about 10% of what was happening at any given time. People would speak their native language at me (which I always thought was hilarious, because – let’s be honest – my grasp of English is already ridiculous) and I’d just sort of nod along, confused but aware that whatever happened would probably be fine. It’s a wonder I didn’t end up married to one of the men I met on the street. Or maybe I did and just didn’t notice.

The point is, sometimes it’s nice to feel a little out of your depth, because usually you find a way to deal with that challenge in a productive way. You learn to gesture at things and mime actions in order to get people to understand you. You end up laughing a lot because you’re being an idiot, miming “the painting of the Mona Lisa” at a stranger on the street, and the strange little connections you make with people over things like that can be the most beautiful ones. Some of my favorite encounters in Bangalore involved people bobbling their heads, laughing at me, and giggling “no no no” as I attempted to figure out how to order food or get directions to a temple. I was blessed in one of those temples by the tiniest little man who, as I knelt in front of him, my forehead on the cold stone floor, touched my head so lightly and spoke words containing such meaning and power that they transcended language and traveled directly to my soul. The profundity of that moment will never diminish in my memory.

I miss that. I miss not understanding but somehow still knowing. I don’t like constant English, and I’m almost definitely in the minority on that one, but I really hated coming back to the States and not hearing Kannada everywhere I went. It made me feel lonely. Too connected.

I made this playlist today because it’s a dark, quiet day and it reminded of how little I understand the world. But that doesn’t feel discouraging…it feels so wonderfully exhilarating – so thrilling – that I don’t know anything, because it means I get to discover so many things. There is so much to learn.

I’m really stoked on life today, and it may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’m over-caffeinated and literally bouncing up and down in a coffee shop while working on homework, but I think I’d feel this way with or without that half a latte (you read that right: half a latte. My body is an idiot and won’t let me drink adult drinks without freaking out).

Humans are really beautiful creatures sometimes. It takes some time, but ultimately, we end up united. And that’s the best way to end this post: with a really cheesy statement about hope.

Mating Rituals


My roommate fed me a cheese curd from Dairy Queen earlier today and I told her I loved her because…cheese. She just stuck it right in my mouth cuz she loves me, and now the feeling is mutual. Then…then she uttered the funniest, truest thing I’ve heard all week:

“Before you mate with the wild Cappy, gently feed her cheese curds. Don’t be too aggressive or you might scare her off.”

She’s right. I like to be fed cheese gently. Take notes, fellas.

On Diwali: Glorious, Magical, Bittersweet


Only the best restaurant I've ever eaten at in Bangalore.

Only the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten at in Bangalore.

It’s Diwali, and with that comes so much light and love and happiness for me as a Hindu. I continually learn about elements of my faith with each passing holiday, so I always have a hard time explaining Diwali to other people, but the most beautiful thing for me about Hinduism is that I feel it deep in my soul. I understand it there first, and then in my head. That doesn’t always sit well with others, but its what makes Hinduism mine. It’s why I am Hindu and not Jain or Sikh or Muslim or Jewish or anything else. I am inherently Hindu, deep through my core, and it bursts out of me in the most glorious ways. I am a human representation of the physical aspect of Diwali.

I am drawn, like that cliche moth to its mother flame, toward the light and love that Diwali represents, both in the material and spiritual worlds. But as I celebrate, I miss my mother. I miss India. I miss my spirit’s home. Hinduism and India, in my heart, are one.

So many things have reminded me of Bangalore this past week, even before I began celebrating the festival of light. My roommate bought a new hand soap that I’d used while I was in Bangalore, and every time I wash my hands I feel like crying a little as the scent reminds me of my time there. I watched a few videos of people celebrating Diwali in New Delhi and Bombay and once again felt like crying as I saw the trees wrapped in the most fluorescent lights known to mankind. I miss seeing those everywhere at night, simultaneously blinding and entrancing me. When I was in Bangalore, those lights comforted me even as I felt like dying from E. coli or homesickness for America, and remembering that they exist makes me want to jump aboard the nearest plane and endure 20 hours of air travel just so I can see them again.

India is magic. I miss the old men, laughing louder than I’d ever heard anyone laugh before, burping after they ate a good meal, looking at me like I was just a silly child when I got confused about directions. I miss rickshaws, those sassy little vehicles that simultaneously inspired terror and joy as they careened throughout the narrow side-streets. I miss women touching my blonde hair and telling me I was so tall. Mangoes. Everyone laughing at me. With me.

But in the same breath that I call India magical, I must also call it devastating. The duality of India is not lost on me: rich and poor living directly next to each other. Beggar children with no shoes standing atop piles of trash. Cattle wandering aimlessly, without owners or protection. Wild dogs, all of them with at least one injured limb, begging for food. Rabid. Begging. India begs, often without pride or ego, with the most desperate voice. It’s not something anyone can easily forget or ignore.

But it’s like a lover you can never leave behind. India. She appears in my dreams, calling out, begging me to return. And oh god, I would oblige if I only could. I don’t think I’d ever wept before, but I weep now for my companion. India is a physical representation of my god, my religion, the spirituality I feel deep within. And I need her now more than ever.

Diwali is glorious, shining, happy. I will celebrate and pray and love, of course, because this holiday is perfect. But this year, it is also tinged with sadness as I experience a longing for the home I never truly grew up in, wishing teleportation would hurry up and invent itself, because I’m homesick.

Henrietta


henrietta letters

Oh yeah, and I got some pretty sweet cat salt and pepper shakers, too. You’re welcome.

I’d never liked antiquing before — my mother half-dragging me around rooms full of musty nonsense that nobody wanted, my feet tired, my nose stinging a little from all that dust and “history.” History in quotes, of course, because much of it seems to be weird plastic crap from the 1970s that got tossed out of someone’s basement and somehow landed in a shop dubbed as an “antique.” But my family took a trip to a little town on the river and found an amazing shop with proper, beautiful antiques. Vases, gorgeous old pipes, well-preserved powder blue suitcases, lamps, a strangely huge collection of salt and pepper shakers and finally…a stack of old letters spanning from 1913 to 1935 chronicling the life of Henrietta, a woman from California whose husband died of influenza in 1918, whose children grew up and sent her postcards from their trips throughout the state, whose sister and disabled brother sent her darling letters, drawings, and times tables. My favorite envelope simply contains a newspaper clipping of a burned-down building, with the words “our old playgrounds are ruined” in thick pencil-scrawled cursive.

I hadn’t written or been inspired to write since I left India. Life has felt like a blur, and a not-so-pleasant one at that, since I returned. I miss my life in Bangalore, miss the way people treated me and loved me and randomly took photos with me, miss the bizarre hole-ridden sidewalks and too-strong milk in bags, miss the food (oh, the food), miss rickshaw rides through monsoons. I often find myself up at night wishing I were back there, even though I love being home in the states, where it’s actually quiet at night and I don’t have to wear long pants in 90 degrees with 80% humidity. I’m glad I don’t have E. coli anymore, which finally ended its long romp inside my intestines after 4 weeks of the most impressive diarrhea imaginable. But I want to go back. It’s particularly hard because I was supposed to be there for 10 weeks and left after 4 instead, so in my mind I’m supposed to be there, not here doing yard work at 7 a.m. or living in the country with only a few friends around. I got used to never being alone, always having something to look at or taste or laugh about (so many goats), and writing is such a solitary activity that I think I’ve been avoiding it.

But then…Henrietta. Henrietta has a story to tell, and I’ve been researching her family tree and census records, trying to get a timeline so I can imagine her life and recreate it on paper. She came to me on old, yellowed paper, wrapped in a pink ribbon, and it’s my job, my duty even, to do her justice. You’ll see the results. Not tomorrow, maybe not next year, but someday you’ll meet Henrietta.

Many thanks to my reader Hans, whose kind words and constant reassurance always add a little joy to my day! (Basically, he was like “Why don’t you write anymore” and I was like “Good question” and that was like…that.)

Bye Bye Bangalore, Bangalore Goodbye…


I’m leaving early. I’m leaving early, after one session instead of two, and it’s so bittersweet, because there are things I love about this country — the food, the constant respect I receive, the way everything lights up and twinkles at night — and things I truly despise — the sheer number of people and cars, the heat and dust, the fact that I can’t even drink the purified water without feeling sick. I’m leaving in 4 days, because it’s hard to exist far from home when your intestines are screaming and E. coli seems to have taken over your body. I’m leaving because it’s time to leave.

I’m leaving the wonderful friends I’ve made through my program, leaving the office aide Saraswati who has become my surrogate mother during this trip, leaving the temples and villages and mango carts. I’m leaving aloo gobi from my favorite “fast food” restaurant, the market on the corner that sells ice cream. The nights when we stay in and watch Bollywood music videos and laugh until we feel sick. The trips out of the city to feed elephants and see Tibetan monks and buy spices. Leaving rickshaw rides in monsoons, calls to prayer, sari fabric that must’ve come straight from god, and the most handsome boys at the cake shop down the street.

village

But I’m returning, too. Returning home, where I’ll hopefully rid myself of E. coli and get to hug my mother, breathe in her scent, sleep with my cat, take care of my father after his knee replacement, and drink tap water. With ice. Home, where I can actually eat fresh vegetables without worrying. Home, where people move too fast and worry too much and live with so much fear even when there’s no danger around the corner. There are downsides to every place you go.

Sometimes we forget that India isn’t some mystical land of wisdom and perfection. It’s seriously flawed; overpopulated, often undereducated, and still developing. That’s not a criticism. It’s a fact. And if I stayed here simply because I thought India was somehow going to heal me from within, to thoroughly cleanse me spiritually so I would come home a different person…well that would just be a dangerous illusion. To stay because I’m afraid to quit, because I’m “supposed” to stay, because I’m afraid of judgment…I won’t do that. I need to take care of myself, just as I would at home, and right now that means I need to be home. India has a spirit and mind of it’s own, that’s for sure, and right now our spirits are at odds.

I’ll miss this beautiful, terrible place. Truly I will. But I’ll be back, India. Tujh mein rab dikhtah hai. I see my god in you.

Good.


I never know how to explain this place to people when they ask, so I always just awkwardly say “good.” I thought maybe I hated it before, which was mostly due to the fact that I was basically living on a toilet dealing with some serious E. coli. But now, since my stomach is no longer rebelling against me, I understand India.

It’s hot here. People eat hot food and drink hot drinks, which at first defies all logic until you realize that the hotter the food is, the less likely it is to poison you.

It’s dusty and dirty and there’s trash on the road and cow pies everywhere and huge man-holes in the sidewalk…but they just keep me on my toes. Every day I survive is a small accomplishment, especially when I cross the street.

Everyone here stares at me, but it’s less weird now that it’s been happening for about 2 weeks. I’m tall, very pale, and blonde with blue eyes. I think I’ve seen one or two other people here who fit that description, so for once in my life I’m kind of exotic…it’s weird. Weird but kind of awesome. When we were stuck in traffic the other day, an entire family rolled down their windows to wave at me and a friend and ask us how we were doing. Sometimes it’s creepy, like when motorcycle drivers pull up next to us and lock us in solid, abnormal-for-America eye contact, but usually it’s borne from an intense curiosity and genuine interest. I’ll never mind.

I don’t know what it is…someone told me India is not love at first sight, but it grows on you. I think they might be right. Sometimes it feels awful living in this city, where everything smells a bit like decomposing trash, a bit like incense, and a bit like spicy food…where the rickshaws honk, the motorcycles beep, the buses basically sound like elephants…I live in the middle of fields back in the states. Cities are hard.

But then we go to villages and meet little children and fall in love and almost cry when we leave them behind. I see pictures of myself looking so exceedingly happy, so completely blissful, and I remember that the negative is only temporary, and I’ll miss this place when I’m gone. I go to Hindu temples, places I’ve only ever dreamed of experiencing, and am blessed by a little man in the corner, kneeling and bowing before him as he touches my head and sings something I’ll never understand but can feel within my soul, and I can still feel his fingertips on my head and the cold beneath my knees. I bow before Ganesh and ask him to help me, touch Shiva’s feet and let water run across my face and over my head, participate in traditions I didn’t even know existed. I give a priest an offering and am painted vermillion and it looks like a little head wound when I accidentally scratch it but in the most perfect sort of way, and I’m happy.

It’s good here.

I’m Not Dead…


…I just have E. Coli. So that’s been fun. Almost better though! 

I know you were all worried (pff) so I thought I’d post here quickly. We went to a village yesterday and I wanted to stay forever. And I had aloo gobi for the first time yesterday and again today, and…India is much better when you can actually eat the food. 

I’ll write more soon since I haven’t in several days, but we have to leave early to tour temples tomorrow so I should sleeeeeep.

xo

Tummy Trouble


Warning: Diarrhea talk below.

It’s hard to love this place when it’s essentially eating your stomach. I’ve been having a pretty rough time for the last 36 hours, mostly sleeping and laying in my room, running to the bathroom every couple hours. But today is the first day of classes, so we walked 3 kilometers (about 45 minutes) to school this morning and I basically wanted to pass out on the side of the road. Diarrhea tummy and heat don’t really mix too well.

I don’t know how people here deal with the stomach flu or other things that make your stomach unsettled, because the food here isn’t really soothing for my nausea. I’m sure they have soups of some kind, but I had a hard time even venturing out of my apartment yesterday for fear of needing a bathroom and not being able to find one.

Lipton boxed chicken noodle soup has definitely saved me, so I’m not about to keel over from lack of nourishment, and I brought some Gatorade so at least I won’t die here! (It’s not really that bad, I just like being dramatic.)

Anyway, today should be exciting to say the least. Wish me luck!